GODzone Adventure - Chapter 4

  • New Zealand (NZL)
  • Off-Road Running
  • Off-Road Cycling
  • Paddling
  • Navigation

A Glacial Start and A Varied Course

Rob Howard / 27.02.2015See All Event Posts Follow Event

Godzone Chapter 4 begins (weather permitting), with an ascent of the Brewster Glacier.  After their 4am departure, and a stop at a village hall to mark up their first maps, the teams will gather on an island in front of Fantail Falls and follow the Brewster track then climb onto the glacier and back down again for the first stage of the race.  All the teams will be equipped with full mountaineering kit and use fixed ropes at times, which are manned by guides. The climb which is expected to take the leaders around 6 hours 30 minutes.

"We had two epic canoe and mountain trekking stages last year," said RD Warren Bates, "and this year we wanted to have shorter, more varied stages and spend longer in the mountains so Brewster Glacier was an easy choice to start with. It's the most accessible from Wanaka and within 90 minutes of the start teams will be on the ice, which is pretty quick."

Stage 2 will take teams white water canoeing down the Makarora River and they'll find water levels are very low due to recent near drought conditions. "The slower teams may be on here in the dark," said Bates, "and it could be quite scary being on white water – it all adds to the fear factor if you can't see what's ahead but can hear it coming."

Stage 3 is the Alpine trek up over Albert Burn Saddle which starts with crossings of the Makarora and Wilkin Rivers.  It's not as much climb as some other stages, but most teams will out on this overnight and it is wild and sometimes pathless country. The route book warns, "The Albert Burn Track is poorly marked ... it is easy to lose sight of it at night."

Stage 4 is on the Matukituki River and is a canoe descent with finishes with a 7km coasteering and swimming stage. The river descent will bring teams down to Wanaka Lake once more where they will swim 400m across Paddock Bay and follow the shore around to TA4.  Bates warns teams could get quite cold here, especially at night.

A 137km mountain bike ride over the Criffel Range then takes teams towards Queenstown and one of the checkpoints on the way is back at race HQ!  Here teams will get the remainder (and the bulk) of their maps and there is an enforced 5 minute time out and an upper time limit of 2 hours to stop there with the maps.

This stage is a high and exposed ride, much of it over 2000m and there is plenty of route choice for the teams, so it could be one of the first really decisive stages of the race.  The ride finishes at Drift Bay, Queenstown and is followed by a 28km kayak stage on the Wakatipu Lake. There are 4 paddles in a total of 9 stages, but none are very long.

Stage 7 is the Garvie Mountains and any teams not starting this by 2am on Weds will be short coursed. (This is the only race cut-off.) The 14 hour trek is described by Bates as, "the most beautiful stage we've had on any Godzone." Which is saying something! "That long ride takes us out to an area I am sure none of the teams will expect," he added. "I don't think any of them will pick it.  It's a wild and visually stunning area, with tough navigation and will test and amaze the teams." (The route book warns of 'many more rocky steps and bluffs than are marked on the map'.)

Stage 8 is the final mountain bike and is the longest in the race at 152km, crossing the intriguingly names 'Old Person Ranges'.  Teams will be very tired now and there is a real twist on the way with the orienteering stage in the Waikaia Forest. First teams will have to decide what footwear to take, and the navigator will then have to adjust to using a detailed orienteering map with 5m contours. There will be lots of strategy too. As the road passes through the forest the checkpoints are spread either side of it and teams can access them how, and in what order, they choose. They are all full race checkpoints and mandatory so none can be missed and it's a difficult orienteering map with the checkpoints placed by elite orienteer Bruce McLeod.  Teams may need to plan not to arrive at this section during the night!

The race finishes with stage 9, a 52km paddle around the beaches, bays and islands of Lake Wanaka to get back to the finish line at race HQ.  "There are some tricky controls," said Bates, "and teams will be struggling to stay awake on the water. There could be mistakes and position changes if teams are not careful." He summed up the course saying, "There is great variety, native forest, beech forest and bush, a glacier, tussock, rock and wild mountains and the beautiful rivers and lakes. We hope it's a good mix for the teams to enjoy.

[Due to an embargo this article was written the night before the race, so it's possible there will be changes to stage one in the event of bad weather.]


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